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Our Collective Responsibility as Individuals During COVID‑19

David Wennberg, MD, MPHCEO, Quartet Health

Blog | Healthcare | Mar 18, 2020

Adapted from a March 16, 2020 email to Quartet Health staff.

I am taking off my CEO hat for a second and putting on my primary care physician and public health hat.

I remain concerned about you, your families, friends, and loved ones.

As we closely follow the news, public health websites, and select other communications it is time to take additional steps. The major concern is that the current doubling rates of COVID-19 cases in major metropolitan areas are mirroring those in other countries who have been severely impacted by the disease.

If the pandemic continues at this rate in select cities in the US, COVID-19 will put significant strain on our health care system and other infrastructures. Major cities like NYC, Boston, Seattle, and the Bay Area have high-quality medical systems; however, even so, there is a significant chance that the capacity to treat those that get severely ill will outstrip the supply of ICU beds.

Wearing my public health hat, here are a few steps we should all consider to reduce the rate of spread and to ‘flatten the curve’:

1. Practice social distancing.

Social distancing is a critical step to flatten the curve (the number of people sick at any one time), slowing the spread of the virus and allowing the health care system to manage the pandemic. We are social animals, and I know that isolation can be very stressful. I recommend that you and your household members do the following:

  • #stayhome and avoid public places including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, etc.
  • Refrain from hosting any visitors or visiting any friends or family nearby for parties, meals, or social gatherings of any kind.
  • Pause indoor work of any person such as nannies, babysitters, house cleaners, maintenance staff.
  • Do not shake hands with anyone outside your household.
  • Designate only one person in the household to go out if and when you need supplies and reduce the frequency for this as much as possible.
  • Get outdoors to places without crowds where you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. Exercise, like walking, running, or biking is good for the mind and body.

2. Make sure you have enough food, supplies, and medications to be in self-quarantine for 2–3 weeks.

This will allow you and your family to stay in place and reduce the need to go out regularly for supplies. My wife and I have stocked up with enough goods to last a couple of weeks. I know this is tougher in small spaces, and/or where stocks are low, but take this step if you can. If you are on medications, make sure you have a 3-month supply. (See Note 1)

3. Make decisions that account for the health of others.

Many friends and colleagues in more densely populated urban areas have asked if they should temporarily relocate with friends or family in less crowded places. I’ve wrestled with this, as there is not a clear answer at this stage, and I am concerned about ‘migration’ spreading COVID-19 to areas where community spread hasn’t occurred. If you are thinking about this, here are a few considerations that help to keep the health of others as the north star:

  • What is the risk level of the people you would be joining (e.g., over 65 and/or with chronic illnesses, expectant mother, and living with immunodeficiency)? We are more likely to be carriers or have moderate symptoms vs. having a severe illness, so it’s important we not increase the odds of transmitting illness to those who can least afford to get sick.
  • What health care resources exist in each area in case of illness? In the case that you or a loved one does become seriously ill, it’s important to have reliable, high-quality health care capacity nearby.
  • How well are you and those in the same household effectively able to shelter in place in a given location? Wherever you plan to be in the coming weeks, it’s important that you have the ability to stay in place without regularly going out for more food or supplies.

4. Follow local guidance.

Testing will become more readily available over the next few days and weeks. This will give our public health, government, and health care providers the information they need to better plan and adjust. Many municipalities are keeping residents updated through webpages, social media, and text alerts. Sign up for your notifications and follow the instructions. Make sure to also follow the CDC official recommendations.

5. Wash your hands.

Even as you #stayhome, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water — up to 15 to 30 times a day! Our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dave Lim, an infectious disease physician by training, modeled best practices for handwashing in a recent all-staff virtual town hall. Watch him (and his great assistant!) here.

 

Now putting on the other hat I wear, in times of stress and public emergency, the best in people rises to the surface. I am proud of my team and impressed by the leadership of colleagues I have been in touch within recent days. Let’s take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and lead by example. #stayhome

David Wennberg serves as Quartet’s Chief Executive Officer. Prior to becoming CEO, David was Quartet’s Chief Data Scientist and led the Business Development team. David previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern New England Accountable Care Collaborative (NNEACC), and as the Chief Executive Officer of the High Value Health Collaborative at The Dartmouth Institute. A co-founder of Health Dialog Analytic Solutions, the analytic division of Health Dialog, David served as Health Dialog’s Chief Science Officer. David received his MD from McGill University and MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Note 1 — Some insurance companies have restrictions for some medications that limit supply to <90 days. We are seeing insurers relax these guidelines. Check with your insurance company to learn more

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